Ready to relay (virtually)

Community Featured

Pictou County hosting only event in Atlantic Canada

For Shannon MacLean, it’s personal.

She has been involved in the local Relay for Life event since it’s been held in Pictou County and this year will mark her 17th year.

“My Dad had lung cancer and I had taken him back and forth to Halifax for radiation. He had just finished in May and the Relay was in June, and he mustered up all of his strength and walked the track in his yellow survivors shirt. It was one of the most empowering things I’ve seen… he was a very proud survivor.”

Her father has since passed away. “For me, Relay for Life gave me two extra years with my Dad from the time he was diagnosed so Relay for Life, for me, is about giving people more time because the research that has been done and the advancements in medication and the technology is allowing our cancer patients to survive and to really have a life after cancer. And that is why I relay.”

Her daughter Karmen MacLean, who is a communications major at Mount St. Vincent University and has taken on the role of communications director for the event this year, cites the same personal reasons.

“I’ve been part of Relay since I was a kid. Both my grandfathers were diagnosed with cancer and I watched them both go through their fights with cancer. At first, I just wanted to support people who survived and were fighting and even those who lost their battle with cancer. Then it became a lot more personal.”

Shannon is once again organizing the 2021 Relay for Life in Pictou County and she is excited about this year’s event which will see a number of changes.

“We’re just hoping people realize that cancer hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic. We really are trying to bring the local flavour back to Relay for Life.”

The 2021 Relay for Life is taking place virtually, nation-wide, on June 12. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges associated with holding an in-person event and the large crowds that typically participate in and attend events, the Canadian Cancer Society has made the decision to host the fundraiser virtually.

While the event is streaming nation-wide, Pictou County — at The Commune and Shoebox Studios — has been chosen to host Atlantic Canada’s only local virtual event. This means that participants are invited to join in to enjoy local entertainment, stories, activities to engage the entire community and most of all honour and remember Participants of Hope (people living with cancer, survivors or those who carry a genetic risk factor).

Having the 2021 event hosted by The Commune and Shoebox Studios in the former CKEC radio building in downtown New Glasgow brings the event full circle. The halls of the former radio station will again be ringing with laughter and music, as the event will be live streamed from there. “I’m really excited for that,” Shannon said.

“My hope is that we can involve artists from Atlantic Canada because we are the only Atlantic Canadian location that is hosting its own virtual relay.”

There are four events across the country, but Pictou County is the only one in Atlantic Canada. Shannon says she thinks that’s “because of the relationships we have with our community and the relationships we’ve built with our survivors and our sponsors and ultimately because Pictou County has the flavor that the Relay for Life and the Canadian Cancer Society was looking for.”

Since most of the teams will be in their own ‘bubbles’ Shannon says, “We’ll be encouraging them to get together in one spot and participate together.” And if they can’t physically get together they can all log into social media and participate together, separately.

Event goals include raising $25,550 and having 70 participants registered in 15 teams. The Pictou County Dream Team has already registered.

Derrick Pierre, co-owner of The Commune, says his business will be hosting the live streaming downstairs in the building and Ian Kamp of Shoebox Studios, will be providing the live streaming audio and technical needs from his offices upstairs.

Derrick is excited for a chance to showcase the Relay using his business. “That’s what The Commune is all about. We want to host events and do community things.”

Ian is equally enthusiastic. “It’s a great opportunity for us to host an event for such a meaningful organization for Canada and the province and the community as a whole, and to do it here in New Glasgow as opposed to anywhere else is great.”

This will be the first event in the new location for Pierre and Kamp.

Shannon MacLean, director of Pictou County’s Relay for Life, and her daughter Karmen MacLean, communications co-ordinator. (Jardine photo)